Tennis Elbow: An Australian Open for the (old) ages

published: Jan, 30, 2017

by: Charles Blouin-Gascon

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon reviews the 2017 Australian Open.

Maybe it won’t last for the entire year but this first month of the 2017 season guarantees that younger tennis fans will have got a look at what used to be.

And 20 or 30 years from now, when their fathers sit them down at the table to let them know all about what tennis used to be like in their time, well they can say that they know. That they saw it in their time too, in 2017. Because this year’s Australian Open certainly was the throwback kind.

In the end, the best players in men’s and women’s tennis history snagged one more (final?) Grand Slam title—and, perhaps most surprising of all, they did so by defeating their very chief rival in the final.

First up was Serena Williams, who finally, at long last, captured her 23rd major title by defeating her sister Venus Williams in two sets of 6-4. With this title, Serena now stands alone atop WTA chain, one more Grand Slam title than Steffi Graf. (Unless you count Margaret Court’s 24 but, like, nah, Open era and all.) The win also propels the younger Williams sister back to No. 1 in the world, a ranking she had relinquished to Angelique Kerber last season.

If it feels like all’s well that ends well, it’s because it basically is.

Considering that this is her seventh title down under, and this will be her 310th week ranked at No. 1, none of this is exactly surprising from the 35-year-old Serena—but that it came against her older sister? In 2017? Yeah, not many of us saw that coming. This match was 36-year-old Venus’s deepest run at a major since a Wimbledon final in… 2009! If you’re looking strictly at the Australian Open, this 2017 final is Venus’s best result since a 2003 bid.

The men’s final, however, certainly was the piece de resistance of this year’s Australian Open, a final between two men who need no introduction. Ludicrously billed in some places as the most important match in men’s tennis history, it still delivered a classic—with Roger Federer finally, at long last, 1) capturing an 18th Grand Slam title and 2) vanquishing Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam final, this time by the score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6 and 6-3.

While I had all the jokes in the run-up, Federer had the last laugh after two weeks in Melbourne. “Today, I just drove myself forward. I just told myself, ‘Run for the ball. Serve and run, serve and run. Just run for the ball,'” Federer said after the win, one that he called “a milestone in my career.”

If it’s a milestone, it’s that it’s yet another major in a career that, while full of them, hadn’t been nearly as successful recently. This is Federer’s first Grand Slam title since 2012, maybe you’ve seen it in a few places.

The relationship between Nadal and Federer, and their place in history in respect to one another, has always been seen as complicated—but it’s really not. All numbers seem to say that the Swiss is the best player ever…but how can he be so if he has a 23-12 record against Nadal? Well if it were up to head-to-head records, Novak Djokovic, with his head-to-head records of 25-11, 23-22 and 26-23 versus Andy Murray, Federer and Nadal, would be comfortably ahead.

But he’s not. It’s Federer who’s ahead, and that hasn’t changed. The only thing that has is that 17 has become 18.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Charles Blouin-Gascon

I'm the mastermind (I use this word very generously) of the 'Tennis Elbow' column, which looks at the previous week in the world of tennis. I try to bring humor to my coverage, because life's much better when you're smiling. I can also hit a mean backhand down the line.

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